Renal Diet Breakfast Ideas from a Renal Dietitian

Renal Diet Breakfast Ideas from a Renal Dietitian

Are you at a loss for what to eat for breakfast while you’re following a renal diet? 

I am so glad you are here! My name is Candace Mooney, and I’m a registered dietitian, certified specialist in renal nutrition, and breakfast enthusiast.

I’d love to show you how you can fit your favorite foods into your renal diet breakfast by making sure you include foods to balance your plate. I’ll also share a ton of my favorite renal diet breakfast ideas for you to pick and choose from!

Not only is it important to include breakfast meals in a renal diet, but what you choose for breakfast can make or break your health goals and habits for the rest of the day.

Let’s first look at what constitutes a healthy breakfast for kidney disease!

Nutritional Considerations for Kidney Disease

We first have to consider general nutrition recommendations for kidney disease. I like to focus on food groups and nutrients that we need to include in our renal diet breakfast. Let’s start there!

Balance Your Plate

Goal: Include a fruit or vegetable

A plant-focused diet is generally recommended to protect your health with kidney disease. This means you should aim to include at least 2 fruit servings and at least 3 vegetable servings each day. This does not mean you have to become a vegan and eat only plants.

But keep in mind, it’s hard to catch up for the day if no fruits and/or vegetables are included in your breakfast. 

To keep it simple, I count one cup of raw vegetables and one medium-sized fruit as equal to one serving. 

Protein and Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL)

Goal: varies, negative PRAL

Eating a low-protein diet and focusing on including more plant proteins and less animal protein is generally recommended when you have kidney disease. (1

The actual amount of protein recommended for you personally can vary from 35 grams per day to up to 70 grams per day. The right amount for you depends on your body composition, weight history, medical, and surgical history. 

The best way to know your personal nutrition prescription is to work with a qualified renal dietitian, like me, or someone like me

Eating animal protein provides more grams of protein in smaller portions. So having animal-based sausages or other proteins at breakfast adds up pretty quickly towards your protein limit.  It also has a higher PRAL value than plant proteins. 

You are most likely aiming for lower PRAL values in your meals if you have kidney disease. So what does PRAL mean exactly? 

Foods are given a potential renal acid load (PRAL) value depending on how much acid or base they produce in your body when they are metabolized (or broken down). The higher the PRAL value, the more acid they produce in your blood when your kidneys aren’t able to complete their job at 100%. 

Your goal is to help your kidneys maintain a good acid/base balance in your blood with the foods you choose. The more negative the PRAL value the more base they produce, which helps your kidneys balance your blood pH.(2)

And here’s a secret with PRAL… If you meet your recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day (see above), along with the recommended amount of protein each day (focusing on more plant protein than animal protein), you will almost always meet your PRAL goal of being an overall negative value for your day!

So if we break protein down into what it will look like on our plate, you’ll most likely want to aim for 10-25 grams of protein with breakfast depending on your personalized nutrition prescription. You’ll also want to choose plant proteins (or dairy) more often than not.

Sodium

Goal: less than 700 mg

Aiming for less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day with kidney disease can protect your health.(1) I recommend trying to keep each meal less than 700 mg of sodium when eating 3 meals a day with snacks. 

Of course, depending on your medical history (congestive heart failure, hypertension, fluid overload, etc.), your goal could be lower or higher.

You could also eat more or less sodium in a meal depending on what you are eating the rest of the day. For example, if you know you’re going out for dinner and there is no way to avoid a high-sodium meal for dinner, you may want less sodium for your breakfast meal, and vice versa. 

It can be hard to meet your goals for sodium if you’re choosing foods high in sodium like sausage and bacon. Or it can also be hard if you are needing convenience foods like biscuit mixes, pancake mixes, frozen breakfast sandwiches, or bowls. Not to mention, these convenience foods don’t include fruit or vegetables!

Stay tuned for convenient renal diet breakfast ideas below that are lower in sodium!

Carbohydrates, Added Sugar, and Fiber

Goal: 30-75 grams of carbohydrate, less than 10 grams of added sugar, and at least 5 grams of fiber

Carbohydrates are almost always recommended to create a balanced meal when you have kidney disease. Polycystic kidney disease may be an exception with low carbohydrate amounts but for most people with kidney disease (especially if you have diabetes), it’s important to eat around the same amount of carbohydrates at every meal to ensure you are providing your body with energy and fuel.

Your recommended amount of carbohydrate per meal will vary depending on your height, gender, weight, medical history, etc. If you are unsure of how many carbohydrates to include in your meals, reach out to me or another qualified dietitian to help you develop a plan that works for you.

Added sugars (sugar that is not naturally found in foods) can increase inflammation in your body, which is already a struggle when you have kidney disease. And breakfast foods are notorious for having added sugar. Check your nutrition labels and make sure you aren’t getting a lot of added sugar in your choices. Aim for less than 10 grams of added sugar in your renal diet breakfast meals. 

Breakfast foods can also be a way to pack in a lot of fiber to get a jump start on meeting your daily recommendations of 25-38 grams. (3) Just think about oatmeal, nuts, seeds, fruits like apples and berries, vegetables in omelets, or even beans on breakfast tacos! 

I’m getting excited for the actual renal diet breakfast ideas! 🤓

Potassium 

Goal: varies; avoid added potassium

The recommended amount of potassium in your diet is very personalized. 

Some people with kidney disease may never need to limit the potassium they get from food. These people may also benefit from getting higher amounts of potassium in their food to help with blood pressure control. (4)

On the other hand, if you have a history of high potassium in your labs, you may benefit from limiting the potassium in your food. Check with your nephrology health care team (preferably your dietitian) to see if you need to limit your potassium.

Beware of added potassium though! Check the ingredient lists on the foods you choose to make sure potassium is not listed in it. 

Phosphorus

Goal: Avoid added phosphates

I always recommend avoiding added phosphates no matter what your stage of kidney disease. Phosphates in your diet can weaken your bones and harden your arteries and your heart. (5)

Please get into the habit of reading the nutrition label to avoid foods that have any words containing “P-H-O-S” in their ingredient list!

Baking powder, sadly, is just a box of phosphate additives and unfortunately, it is in a lot of breakfast staples like biscuits, pancakes, and waffles. Ener-G Baking Powder Substitute is an easy alternative product to use in place of baking powder in your baked goods that does not contain phosphates.

Color!

Goal: as naturally colorful as possible

What foods are the most colorful? Exactly! Another win for fruits and vegetables! The color in these fruits and vegetables actually has a multitude of health benefits.(6)

Breakfast is the perfect time to add color to your plate. Blueberries, strawberries, and apples in your oatmeal and green peppers, spinach, and red onion in your omelet, or pineapple in your smoothies all add color to your plate (or bowl…or cup).

And no, Fruit Loops don’t count! 🙂

Savory Renal Diet Breakfast Ideas

Omelet:

Adding omelets into your breakfast routine can be a great way to ensure you get some vegetables at breakfast! Using the egg as your base, you can mix up your favorite vegetables like spinach (or other greens like baby kale), onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, and so many more options!

You can use 1 or 2 eggs. Just make sure you count the protein content into your daily goal for protein. One large egg has 6 grams of protein so if you’re aiming for 45 grams total for the day, this totally fits in your nutrition plan!

You can also count the amount of vegetables used in your omelet towards your goal of 3 servings per day. 

Simply sauté your veggies in a pan over medium heat. You can use a non-stick pan or avocado oil spray to make sure your vegetables and eggs don’t stick to the bottom. 

Scramble your egg with a whisk or fork in a cup or bowl. Some people like to add a dash (one teaspoon) of milk or cream to the eggs to make their omelet creamier. For kidney disease, this would most likely be fine but I honestly prefer my eggs to have a richer flavor where I can taste the egg so I leave it out. 

Once your veggies are cooked to your desired texture, pour out any liquid that’s accumulated in the skillet, and then pour your eggs over the vegetables in the pan.

Let the egg in the bottom of the pan start to become firm (maybe 5 minutes). Gently lift the edges of the firmed egg with a spatula and tilt the pan so the uncooked egg on the top of the omelet falls under the omelet to the bottom of the pan. 

Continue doing this until your omelet is cooked, then fold in half and enjoy! Yum!

Scrambled Eggs:

If you’re not into omelets and prefer to have scrambled eggs, that’s fine, too! 

All the same rules apply as above when you’re eating scrambled eggs for breakfast. Count the protein in your egg(s). Add some vegetables to your scramble to make it colorful, add fiber, bring your PRAL down, and get a serving of vegetables in at the beginning of the day!

Lots of people like to add salt and pepper to their scrambled eggs. I personally think it’s because scrambled eggs are always overcooked and over chopped making them less flavorful. My husband taught me how to make the most delicious eggs where you can taste the egg flavor so you don’t want to add salt to them!

Scramble your raw eggs in a bowl with a whisk and immediately pour into a preheated pan over medium heat. 

Move your eggs around within the first minute. You want to move the eggs that are firmer to the top and vice versa. Tilt your skillet as you move the “done” eggs from the bottom of your pan to make room for the raw eggs to hit the bottom of the pan. 

I personally like larger egg curds so I try not to disturb and chop my scrambled eggs. 

Continue this process until your eggs are cooked in curds but are still looking a little wet. Remove them from the pan and plate them immediately. Your eggs will continue to cook after you take them off the pan.

These eggs are so good, you don’t need salt and pepper!

I suggest sauteeing your vegetables separately from your eggs and serving them on the side or topping your eggs with them. Steamed tiny asparagus is a great breakfast vegetable, too!

And/or add some fruit to your breakfast. Oranges, pears, and grapes go great with eggs. 

Breakfast Tacos:

After living in Texas for 4 years and marrying a Texan, breakfast tacos are a top request in my house because let’s face it, they are delicious! They can easily be high in sodium and protein which is something you’d like to avoid with kidney disease. 

So how can we make breakfast tacos appropriate for kidney disease and also offer some health benefits for us?

You’ve got it! Add some veggies! 

You can add raw or sauteed onions, peppers (spicy or sweet), and mushrooms. I really like to caramelize my onions without salt or add pickled onions (check the label for sodium, though). 

You can add slices of avocado or smashed avocado (like a quick guacamole). 

I love adding chopped cherry tomatoes and cilantro, too. 

You can definitely use your scrambled egg above for filling but, again, remember to count the protein.

You can also mash your own black beans for filling. Aim for no-salt-added canned beans or cook your own beans and use the extra for dinner. You may want to use garlic or onion powder to flavor your bean mash, too.

And finally, what tortilla would be your best choice for kidney disease? Flour and whole wheat tortillas, unfortunately, tend to be high in sodium and also contain phosphates. Corn tortillas tend to be very low in sodium and do not typically contain phosphates. 

I suggest choosing corn tortillas if you like them. You can double them up in your breakfast taco to be a little more sturdy as they do tend to fall apart when you only have one layer. 

If you aren’t a fan of corn tortillas, your next best choice could come from Siete’s grain free options. They are lower in sodium than most flour tortillas and don’t have added phosphates or potassium. 

Always check your ingredient list in tortillas to make sure they don’t contain added phosphates or added potassium. Always check the sodium amount in your tortillas, along with the serving size.

And if you find a low-sodium flour tortilla without additives, share it in the comments below!

Avocado Toast:

I have been on a HUGE avocado toast kick recently for two reasons. I started shopping at ALDI and they sell a pack of 6 mini avocados that are delicious and very cheap (around $3 a bag)! And I also tried smashed avocado with ground ginger on toast at my grandfather’s house recently and I can’t get enough of it!

If you’re new to avocados, most of them come from the grocery store either green and very hard or black and very hard but they ripen over time. 

The avocado is ripe when the skin is black or dark brown. They also become softer as they ripen. You can test their ripeness by using your thumb to push down on the fruit. If there is a little bit of give, then it is most likely ripe. If it’s very soft with a bunch of give, you probably waited too long. 

Here’s a good tutorial on how to cut and prepare avocado.

For avocado toast, you can mash it and add your seasonings. As I said earlier, I’ve been adding ground, dried ginger to mine with dashes of onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper, and peach white balsamic vinegar. I’ll also bulk it up by adding 3-4 chopped cherry tomatoes in it.

Spread it on a couple of slices of your favorite toasted bread and you’ve got a great savory, kidney-friendly breakfast!

One of the best things about avocados is they can help you easily reach your fiber goals. One-half cup of pureed avocado also has 7 grams of fiber! (7)

Please note, avocado is usually listed as a high-potassium fruit because one-half cup of pureed avocado has around 400 mg of potassium. (7) However, I think it could fit into most everyone’s diet with kidney disease. A typical potassium restriction is around 2000 mg or less a day with kidney disease.  As you can see, 400 mg can fit into that daily restriction. You would just count it toward your daily total.

Seed/Nut Butter on Toast with Chia Seeds:

Grab your toast again! This time we’re putting seeds and nuts on it!

The bread in this breakfast will provide you with some carbohydrates, fiber, and a little bit of protein. I love the thin-sliced options by Dave’s Killer Bread. They are typically low in sodium and don’t have potassium and phosphate additives. Although you should always check the labels! 

I also recommend avoiding the sprouted breads with kidney disease as the phosphorus and potassium are more absorbable and they tend to be higher in protein.

Toast 2 slices of bread and spread 1 tablespoon of your favorite nut or seed butter on top of each slice. Some popular choices that are appropriate for kidney disease include sunflower seed butter, macadamia nut butter, peanut butter, or almond butter. Although you may want to avoid almond butter if you have a history of kidney stones. 

You can add more fiber and a healthy dose of omega-3s by sprinkling a tablespoon or two of chia seeds on top of your toast, too!

Sweeter Renal Diet Breakfast Ideas

Oats:

Oatmeal is a breakfast staple that you can definitely enjoy with kidney disease!

You can make hot oatmeal or batch prepare overnight oats to enjoy several times throughout the week.

Adding fruit to oatmeal is a great way to ensure you get your 2 servings of fruit for the day. Pears, apples, cherries, raisins, bananas, and berries all make great additions to oats.

You can also add some walnuts for more omega-3s and healthy proteins. 

You may enjoy reading my guest blog post on Oats and Kidney Disease for The Kidney Dietitian if you want a deep dive into what types of oats are good for kidney disease and how to prepare them best for kidney disease.

This is my personal favorite kidney-friendly recipe for overnight oats:

Smoothies:

Adding fruits and veggies to your diet cannot get any easier than blending them in your smoothie for breakfast! You can keep frozen fruit and frozen vegetables on hand that will essentially never go bad for your smoothies!

You’ll need to pick your liquid, which can be water, ice, and/or dairy or non-dairy milks. 

You can choose from many non-dairy options like rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, or oat milk. Coconut milk is higher in potassium so you may need to avoid that choice if you know you need to monitor your potassium intake. (8) This can be especially true when pureeing fruits and vegetables that may also be high in potassium. 

Dairy milk may be a good option (but not almond milk) for someone with a history of kidney stones. 

Then have some fun with your add-ins! 

Fruits will add most of your flavor! Frozen pineapple, berries, cherries, and peaches are some of my favorite additions! Even dried fruits like dates and raisins can be used in your smoothies!

Some vegetables that go well in smoothies are greens like kale (spicy!) and spinach. The most surprising vegetable that adds bulk without flavor at all is frozen cauliflower! And these count toward your daily goal!

Other ingredients for smoothies include oatmeal, hemp seeds, avocado, and toasted coconut!

You can really have some fun creating your favorite smoothies and it can be a great “on-the-go” breakfast for kidney disease!

Fruit on Toast with Seed/Nut Butter:

If you’re in the mood for sweet toast but know you need actual fruit more than the fruit jelly, go ahead and add some fruit on there!

Start with the toasted bread and nut or seed butter of your choice (as discussed above). Then add some sliced apple or sliced banana on top! You can eat it like an open-faced sandwich or close it. 🙂

I’ve been stuck on these peanut butter and apple toast sandwiches for a while now:

Pancakes and Waffles with Berries: —

Pancakes and waffles get a bad reputation, kind of like breakfast tacos, but you just need to dress them properly! And it’s best to avoid pre-made mixes and frozen versions.

The best way to ensure you’re avoiding high-sodium, phosphate-infused pancakes and waffles is to make them from scratch yourself. This will also give you the chance to replace the baking powder in them with phosphate-free Ener-G Baking Powder Substitute.

Grab my favorite kidney-friendly waffle and pancake recipes below!

Add some substance to your pancakes and waffles by dressing them in berries, walnuts, nut butters, Nutella, chopped pears, frozen peaches, yogurt, ricotta cheese, and much more. The sky’s the limit! Just try to add some fruit and some healthy proteins.

I personally like to use frozen fruit for toppings because as you microwave them, they become juicy, creating their own syrup. So there’s no need to add extra syrup on top of that! Check the label and make sure your frozen fruit doesn’t have added sugar, potassium additives, or phosphate additives though.

Breakfast Bars:

The ultimate grab-and-go breakfast is breakfast bars! 

Now, I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now but I can’t mention a renal diet breakfast option without saying, where’s your fruit or vegetable? So what can we add to that breakfast bar? 

An apple or pear is a great grab-and-go fruit. A banana may be a good option, especially if you don’t need to monitor your potassium intake. A box of raisins (without added sugar, potassium, or phosphates) may also be a good complement to your breakfast bar.

Which breakfast bars are appropriate for a renal diet breakfast though? You want to ask yourself a few questions when you’re trying to find out if a breakfast bar is renal-friendly:

  1. What does its carbohydrate profile look like?
    • Aim for bars that have less than 10 grams of added sugar (not total sugar).
    • Aim for less than 45 grams of total carbohydrate. This leaves plenty of room for your fruit.
    • Aim for at least 2 grams of fiber. Your fruit option will add more fiber so we don’t have to focus on getting a ton of fiber in your bar.
  1. Does it have added phosphates?
    • If yes, look for another option.
  1. Does it have added potassium?
    • If yes, look for another option.
  1. How much sodium does it have?
    • Aim for less than 500 mg of sodium.
  1. How much protein does it have?
    • Remember your daily goal. Does it fit well?
      • If your goal is 45 grams or less per day, a bar with 20 grams might be hard to fit in, especially if you eat heavier protein meals at lunch or dinner usually.

Some brand-specific options I’ve tried and loved are KIND Bars Dark Chocolate Cherry Chew and Larabar Cashew Cookie

Comment with your favorites below!

Give yourself grace when choosing your renal diet breakfast!

This is your reminder that you don’t have to be perfect to protect your kidneys! 

You don’t need to make ten thousand changes at once. 

Being here is good enough and proves that you care about your health.

When you think about your breakfast options, think about these three questions:

  1. Am I getting a fruit or vegetable in with this meal?
    • If not, how can I add a fruit or vegetable?
  1. How much sodium and protein am I getting?
    • Can I make this work with my nutrition prescription?
  1. Does it contain phosphate or potassium additives?
    • If yes, is there a different brand that doesn’t?

If you’d like some extra support, copy these questions to have in view when you want to think about your renal diet breakfast options.

And remember, you are doing a good job!

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